In a comment to my recent Facebook post regarding Moving Forward, a targeted parent lamented that mental health professionals refuse to assess for the attachment-related pathology of AB-PA. In this lamentation, the parent alleged that AB-PA has “no teeth” to compel professional competence.
I thought my response to this parent may be more broadly of interest, so I am making it as a blog post.
AB-PA most definitely has teeth.
The reason I spent nearly seven years researching and developing a description of the pathology from entirely within standard and established psychological constructs and principles is so that ALL mental health professionals can now be held accountable. The rampant professional incompetence that has been allowed to flourish unchecked for 30 years by the Gardnerian model of PAS – MUST END.
The APA ethics code requires professional competence (Standard 2.01a.). Mental health professions are not allowed to be incompetent.
But in order to activate Standard 2.01a of the APA ethics code, the pathology must be defined entirely through standard and established constructs and principles to which all mental health professionals can be held accountable.
So that’s what I set about doing, precisely to hold mental health professionals accountable. With the publication of Foundations in which I define the pathology – in detail – entirely from within standard and established constructs and principles of professional psychology, the seeds of accountability were planted. All it requires to actualize the solution is for these seeds of accountability to grow into the tree of change.
The tree is growing.
I recently provided consultation to an attorney, and then at the request of the attorney I provided professional-to-professional consultation to the psychologist who was treating the family.
The treating psychologist entirely understood the nature of the pathology. After our professional-to-professional consultation, this psychologist indicated that he was going to formally diagnose the family pathology as V995.51, Child Psychological Abuse, and he would then file a suspected child abuse report with child protective services to discharge his “duty to protect.”
A few weeks later, I was contacted by the attorney. Child protective services was investigating a complaint of child psychological abuse. The attorney was wondering how to handle this investigation by child protective services in a way that would be most productive to enacting a solution to the family pathology.
This following excerpt is from my email response to the attorney:
The solution is building. The issue you’re running into is that the solution is only part of the way here.
Step 1: The mental health professional makes an accurate DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse based on their assessment using the Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting.
Step 2: The mental health professional then discharges his or her “duty to protect” by filing a report with child protective services.
Step 3: Child protective services then employs the same assessment criteria (i.e., the three diagnostic indicators of pathogenic parenting) and confirms the diagnosis made by the mental health professional.
Step 4: Child protective services then removes the child from the psychologically abusive parent and places the child in “kinship care” with the normal-range and affectionally available targeted parent.
I have not yet reached the third and fourth steps in the solution of educating the child protective services system. So I don’t expect them to know what to do with these cases.
But as these cases begin to increasingly flow into the child protective services system, child protective services will increasingly be confused and bewildered. They will begin researching why these cases are coming to them from mental health professionals with confirmed DSM-5 diagnoses of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse.
When they talk to the referring mental health professional, this referring professional will mention me. At some point, after receiving multiple referrals from mental health professionals that include a confirmed DSM-5 diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse, the child protective services will contact me and request training in AB-PA. We then move into Steps 3 and 4.
Once the CPS system is trained, we will have all four steps in the solution in place.
Targeted parents will no longer need to go to trial to prove “parental alienation” in court. Instead, an attorney can seek a court-order for a “treatment-focused assessment” in cases of attachment-related pathology surrounding divorce (a child rejecting a parent).
This treatment-focused assessment will produce a confirmed DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, and a report to the Court and a report to CPS.
CPS will investigate and will provide an independently made confirming second diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse.
If CPS places the child in kinship care with the normal-range targeted parent, then the attorney returns to court to obtain appropriate follow-up court orders for the treatment-related change in custody and covering the ultimate reunification of the child with the abusive parent (with proper safeguards to ensure that the abuse does not resume once contact is restored).
If CPS confirms the diagnosis but defers changing custody to the pending court case for resolution, then the attorney returns to court with two independently made confirmed diagnoses of Child Psychological Abuse and seeks appropriate court orders for remedy.
Returning to the blog…
The solution is coming. It’s no longer a matter of IF a solution occurs. With the introduction of AB-PA (Foundations) the issue has now become HOW SOON the solution arrives.
Notice in the email to the attorney I projected the solution will be achieved in 2018, perhaps 2019. That’s because I am a single clinical psychologist working alone to change the entire mental health system. Big system… little me, working alone.
The Gardnerian PAS experts are withholding their help. It’s a turf-battle thing for them. They would rather try to remain “experts” in Gardnerian “parental alienation” – a model that has offered no solution in over 30 years, than lend their aid to creating a solution that does not involve Gardnerian PAS. They have not brought their banners to the battlefield.
We are left on our own to fight this battle to enact the solution.
But you, the targeted parents – authentic parents who love your children dearly – I could use your help to bring about the solution as quickly as we can achieve it. I don’t want to wait until 2018 or 2020. We can’t afford to wait. Each day that passes without the solution is one day too long.
This needed to be solved yesterday. Because of that, I am working as hard as I can to speed the solution’s arrival as fast as I possibly can. That’s why I’m not writing journal articles yet. They take too long to write and get published, and they have only a minimal real-world impact. My time right now is better spent in other areas. That’s why I’m taking such an assertive stance with the Gardnerian PAS experts, because their withholding of support for the paradigm shift slows the achievement of the solution.
I don’t mind being an annoying pain-in-the-behind if that’s what it takes to bring this nightmare of “parental alienation” to an end. I will poke, prod, push, rail, irritate, annoy, and shout, if that’s what it takes to achieve the solution. It’s not about me. It’s about you and your children. This nightmare that you’re going through must end. And it must end as fast as is humanly possible to achieve.
For your part… you be kind. Be relentless, but be kind. You must fight against the false narrative that you are too “angry and controlling.” Be kind, but be relentless in your expectation of professional competence.
I am available for a professional-to-professional consultation with any mental health professional who seeks it (not the targeted parent, it must be with the involved mental health professional) . All the mental health professional has to do is send me an email with the heading Professional Consultation.
Understanding Your Power
The American Psychological Association actually cares about your suffering. Really, they do. They just don’t know what to do about it because your prior advocates with them, the Gardnerian PAS experts, were trying to force them to accept an untenable “new form of pathology” model for defining the pathology.
In AB-PA, I have listened to the constructive feedback from the APA and I have provided them with a compromise solution that can both end your suffering while still maintaining professional standards for defining the pathology. That’s what AB-PA is designed to do. It’s designed to end the internecine debate within professional psychology and reunite professional psychology into a single unified voice to protect your children.
I have empowered you with AB-PA. I urge you to live into your new power. The helpless disempowerment of your trauma, as you have watched your beloved children become distorted by the pathology of “parental alienation,” and the emotional and psychological abuse you’ve endured from a non-responsive mental health system that does not recognize the severity of the pathology and a legal system mired in delays and ineffective solutions have lulled you into a trauma-induced slumber of your powerless victimization.
You are not a victim anymore. AB-PA empowers you, the child’s authentic and protective parent.
Gardnerian PAS gave up your power. In proposing a “new form of pathology” it froze the mental health system response in endless internal arguments and division. Gardnerian PAS separated you from what should be your natural allies in the domestic violence and child abuse protection advocates, who actually began to argue against you and against the construct of “parental alienation.” In taking us off the path of professional diagnosis, Garnerian PAS has allowed rampant professional ignorance and incompetence to flourish unchecked.
AB-PA has returned your power to you. All that’s needed is for the paradigm to shift.
It is time to awaken from the imposed slumber of your helplessness and enter into your power. Come together and become an unstoppable force for change.
The pathogen seeks to keep you alone and isolated. I have seen the “source code” for this in the pathogen’s meme-structure – the themes by which it distorts and controls. It seeks to isolate you from allies because in your isolation you are powerless against its lies. You scream the truth, but no one listens. By keeping you isolated and alone, it can inflict it’s trauma.
I urge you to rise up and live into your power. Come together, join together. Bring voice – and more. Bring power. AB-PA has teeth.
In one voice you were powerless. In 100 you regain your voice. In 1,000 you enter your power. In 10,000 you become an unstoppable force for change. Become an unstoppable force for change.
The Gardnerian definition of the pathology as a “new form of pathology” represents a failed paradigm. Just look around you at the current state of professional incompetence in assessment, diagnosis, and treatment. The current situation is what the Gardnerian PAS model gives us; rampant professional incompetence and 30 years of continual division and debate within professional psychology.
The Gardnerian PAS model is a failed paradigm. Scoreboard.
AB-PA defines the pathology entirely through standard and established constructs and principles that define domains for required professional competence in assessment and diagnosis:
Personality disorder pathology
Family systems therapy
The three diagnostic indicators of AB-PA are all established and accepted forms of pathology in professional mental health:
Attachment system symptoms
Personality disorder traits
An encapsulated persecutory delusion
Because AB-PA defines the pathology entirely from within standard and established psychological constructs and principles and uses diagnostic indicators that are fully established, defined, and standard symptoms in mental health, all mental health professionals can now be held accountable for conducting an appropriate assessment and for making an accurate diagnosis of the attachment-related family pathology of a child’s cross-generational coalition with a narcissistic/(borderline) parent surrounding divorce.
Notice that I did not use the term “parental alienation” – to recover your lost power within professional psychology, we must use the proper terms to activate Standard 2.01a of the APA ethics code.
Mental health professionals CANNOT be held accountable to “parental alienation.” The construct of “parental alienation” is NOT a defined construct in clinical psychology.
This is important to fully understand. Gardnerian PAS and the construct of “parental alienation” offers no solution. We must switch to AB-PA to achieve the solution.
AB-PA is specifically designed to expose the pathogen from it’s veil of concealment and to hold mental health professionals accountable for making an accurate diagnosis of the family pathology. When we use AB-PA, we are able to stand on the rock-solid Foundations of established psychological constructs and principles, which then leads to three definitive diagnostic indicators of the pathology, codified into a simple and easy-to-use checklist for the assessing mental health professional.
Foundations is the spear that defines the pathology using standard and established constructs and principles. The diagnostic indicators are the head of the spear, cutting through the hidden manipulation of the pathology of the narcissistic/(borderline) personality parent. The Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting is the tip of the spear, penetrating professional incompetence in assessment and diagnosis.
All mental health professionals CAN be held accountable to AB-PA because all of the constructs and principles used in defining the pathology of AB-PA are standard and established constructs and principles of professional psychology, and all three of the diagnostic indicators of AB-PA are standard and established symptoms that are fully accepted in professional psychology and are fully within the scope of practice for mental health assessment by all mental health professionals.
For a mental health professional to refuse to even assess for the three diagnostic indicators of the pathogenic parenting surrounding attachment-related pathology in the family would likely represent a violation of Standard 9.01a of the APA ethics code which states:
9.01 Bases for Assessments
(a) Psychologists base the opinions contained in their recommendations, reports and diagnostic or evaluative statements, including forensic testimony, on information and techniques sufficient to substantiate their findings.
If the mental health professional has not even assessed for the attachment-related family pathology of a cross-generational coalition of the child with a narcissistic/(borderline) parent (notice I didn’t say “parental alienation – you must use the correct professional terms), then they have not based their opinions and recommendations – including diagnostic statements and forensic testimony – on “information and techniques sufficient to substantiate their findings,” in violation of Standard 9.01a of the APA ethics code.
Again, this is important to understand… If you try to hold the mental health professional accountable for assessing “parental alienation,” you will fail.
You MUST use the proper professional terminology provided by AB-PA. Attachment-related pathology. Triangulation. Cross-generational coalition. Pathogenic parenting. These are standard and established – fully accepted – psychological constructs and principles in professional psychology. With these constructs you have power. With these constructs you become dangerous to professional ignorance and incompetence
AB-PA has teeth. Under explicit ethical code standards of practice, mental health professionals are not allowed to be incompetent in their assessment, diagnosis, and treatment.
If a mental health professional refuses to assess for the pathology, I would suggest that the targeted parent begin to lay the “paper trail” relative to this refusal in preparation for filing a licensing board complaint against the mental health professional.
Be kind – always be kind. But expect professional competence in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of your family.
In laying the paper trail, read “Letter to the Stranger.” In a polite and short letter to the mental health professional:
Document – briefly yet meaningfully – your deep and abiding love for your child, and your deep heartbreak and suffering.
Document your request that the mental health professional assess for the attachment-related pathology of a cross-generational coalition with a narcissistic/(borderline) parent (notice I did not say “parental alienation” – you must use the correct terms).
Document your request that the mental health professional consult with Dr. Childress, a recognized expert in the attachment-based pathology of a child’s rejection of a parent following divorce (notice I did not say “parental alienation”)
Document that you provided the mental health professional with my booklet Professional Consultation, or my letter Professional-to-Professional Consultation, or my handout on the Attachment-Related Pathology of Parental Alienation.
Perhaps within the community of targeted parents you can come together to write some template letters to therapists that can be shared with each other.
For that mater, what if targeted parents agreed to write letters of support for each other to involved mental health professionals, so that a request from a targeted parent for group support could result in hundreds of letters flowing in to the mental health professional asking for this professional to please document the child’s symptoms using the Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting and to please consult with Dr. Childress regarding the pathology.
The pathogen seeks to keep you alone and isolated. I’ve read the meme-structure in its “source code” that does this. I urge you to come together. Work for each other. Fight for each other.
Alone you are powerless. In 100 you have reclaimed your voice. In 1000 you have reclaimed your power. In 10,000 you become an unstoppable force for change
Be kind. Be relentless, but always be kind.
In documenting your requests, you are writing the letter to the mental health professional in order establish the paper-trail documentation for your upcoming licensing board complaint against the mental health professional for violation of Standard 9.01a (and possibly for a violation of Standard 2.01a regarding boundaries of professional competence, and possibly for a violation of Standard 3.04 regarding harm to the client, and possibly for their failure in their “duty to protect”).
Possible Causes of Action
You are writing the Letter to the Stranger; documenting; establishing the paper trail. Be brief. Be reasonable. Be kind.
Refusal to Assess
If the mental health professional refuses to assess for the pathology of pathogenic parenting involving a cross-generational coalition of the child with a narcissistic/(borderline) personality parent (notice I did not say “parental alienation” – you must use the proper professional terms to regain your power), despite all of your respectful and pleasantly kind requests for cooperation, then you may need to file a licensing board complaint.
Will this help in obtaining better professional care in your specific case? Probably not. If you are working with an ignorant and incompetent mental health professional who refuses to even assess for pathology, then you’re in trouble from the start.
But in filing a licensing board complaint you are taking the proper actions relative to professional ignorance and intransigent incompetence. You are also helping other targeted parents who may follow after you with this mental health professional.
Targeted parents need to come together to put ALL mental health professionals on notice that you will no longer accept negligent professional ignorance and incompetence in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of your families.
ALL mental health professionals need to understand that they will – with 100% certainty – face a licensing board complaint if they fail to assess for the attachment-related pathology of a child’s cross-generational coalition with a narcissistic/(borderline) personality parent (notice I did not say “parental alienation”).
Now imagine for a second, that you have made respectful and pleasantly cooperative requests asking for a formal assessment and documentation of the child’s symptoms using the Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting, and the mental health professional has steadfastly refused to even assess for the symptoms,…
… and imagine that you then request a meeting with this mental health professional and provide this mental health professional with the letter you intend to send to the licensing board (that you create specific to your situation using the Sample Complaint Letter Template),…
… and imagine that you calmly, politely, and oh-so-kindly inform the mental health professional that you are asking one last time for assessment and documentation of the child’s symptoms, and if the mental health professional refuses then you will be left no alternative than to send this letter and your supporting documentation to the licensing board…
… what do you imagine the mental health professional’s response will be?
Be kind. Always be kind. But also know this, AB-PA has teeth. It most definitely has teeth.
Will the mental health professional suddenly be cooperative and competent? Probably not. If they are that arrogant and incompetent, you are already in lots of trouble. But you are also empowered to confront professional incompetence. You no longer have to simply accept professional incompetence.
Be kind. Be relentless, but always be kind.
Oh, and by the way, I am always happy to talk to this mental health professional. You don’t need to debate professional competence with them. I’m more than happy to do that for you. Simply direct them to me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Parent: “Well, that may be true Mr./Ms. Therapist, but I’m asking that you consult with Dr. Childress and you can raise that issue with him.”
Totally fine by me.
If you file a licensing board complaint, will the licensing board do anything? Maybe not. We cannot control what the licensing board does. What we can control is to ensure that all ignorant and incompetent mental health professionals who refuse to even assess for the pathology are aware that they will – with 100% certainty – face a licensing board complaint from the targeted parent.
We are putting ignorant and incompetent mental health professionals in a position of playing Russian roulette with their career. Did the licensing board to anything this time? No? Lucky you. How about this time? No? Lucky you again. How about this time?…
Or they can simply assess for the pathology using the Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting. If they don’t find the pathology, that’s fine. Just do the assessment and document the results of the assessment in the patient record.
Together – United for Change
You are all in this together. We cannot solve this for any one family, until we solve it for all children and all families.
We want to make the path of professional ignorance and incompetence very dangerous for them; while at the same time we have made the path of knowledge and competence very easy – all they have to do is simply complete the Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting and document the results in the patient record, and then they will be entirely safe from the targeted parent filing a licensing board complaint.
In addition, in filing licensing board complaints against individual mental health professionals who refuse to even conduct an assessment of the child’s symptoms, we are putting pressure on the APA to do something (i.e., to convene a high-level conference of experts in attachment theory, personality pathology, family systems therapy, and childhood trauma, to produce a white paper on the issue) to provide leadership and guidance regarding the assessment of this attachment-related family pathology.
If the APA does nothing, if the APA remains silent in protecting children from the pathogenic parenting of narcissistic and borderline personality parents, then the child’s loving and authentic parent, the targeted parent, will have no other choice in fulfilling their obligation to protect their children from Child Psychological Abuse by the narcissistic/(borderline) ex-spouse than to seek professional competence in assessment – case-by-individual-case – through seeking enforcement of Standard 9.01a – case-by-individual-case.
AB-PA has teeth. It most definitely has teeth.
By returning us to the path of professional diagnosis, AB-PA empowers targeted parents. It is time to wake up from your trauma-imposed slumber of helplessness. You are helpless no more. You are armed and dangerous to professional incompetence.
I am just a single lone psychologist in Southern California. You are thousands of parents fighting for your children. I have armed you with AB-PA. I have laid out the roadmap to the solution.
If you leave it to me to solve, it will take me another couple of years because I am just a single lone psychologist in Southern California. If you bring your thousands of voices – and your power – to the battlefield, who knows how quickly we can accomplish the solution.
Craig Childress, Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist, PSY 18857
What about internationally? I hear you.
My current focus is on shifting the approach in the U.S. that will then provide the leadership guidance to mental health systems in other countries.
But why wait for me? You can start this process. The key is to return to the path of standard and established psychological principles and constructs to define the pathology (Foundations). Then hold mental health professionals in your country accountable to the Standards of professional competence laid out in the professional ethics codes in your countries (Professional Competence).
Be kind. You want to avoid being characterized as being “too angry and aggressive.” Be kind. Be relentless, but always be kind.
Find some allies in professional mental health in your countries who are willing to work with the AB-PA model, and who can carry the voice of the paradigm shift in your countries.
I also have two online seminars available through the Master’s Lecture Series of California Southern University.
Since AB-PA is based entirely in standard and established psychological principles of the attachment system and personality disorder pathology, there is absolutely zero reason for any professional psychology system that is even remotely near 21st century standards not to properly assess and accurately diagnose the pathology. Zero reason.
The pathology is essentially “disordered mourning” surrounding the divorce, with the “primary case” being the narcissistic/(borderline) parent who is then transferring this parent’s pathological mourning to the child through manipulative and exploitative parenting practices.
From John Bowlby: “The deactivation of attachment behavior is a key feature of certain common variants of pathological mourning” (p. 70)
Bowlby, J. (1980). Attachment and loss: Vol. 3. Loss: Sadness and depression. NY: Basic Books.
From Otto Kernberg: “They [narcissists] are especially deficient in genuine feelings of sadness and mournful longing; their incapacity for experiencing depressive reactions is a basic feature of their personalities. When abandoned or disappointed by other people they may show what on the surface looks like depression, but which on further examination emerges as anger and resentment, loaded with revengeful wishes, rather than real sadness for the loss of a person whom they appreciated.” (p. 229)
Kernberg, O.F. (1975). Borderline conditions and pathological narcissism. New York: Aronson.
From John Bowlby: “Disturbances of personality, which include a bias to respond to loss with disordered mourning, are seen as the outcome of one or more deviations in development that can originate or grow worse during any of the years of infancy, childhood and adolescence.” (Bowlby, 1980, p. 217)
John Bowlby and Otto Kernberg are preeminent figures in professional psychology. And look at the dates of those statements, 1975 and 1980. Forty years ago. This is not new stuff.
Internationally, if your mental health system is even remotely modern, there is absolutely zero reason for it not to recognize the pathology and properly diagnose the pathology.
The only reason they’re not recognizing and properly diagnosing the pathology is because they’re trying to recognize and diagnose something called “parental alienation” proposed by Richard Gardner. The moment we return to standard and established constructs and principles, the proper diagnosis (pathological mourning transmitted to the child through the manipulative and exploitative parenting practices of a narcissistic/(borderline) parent, who is the “primary case” of disordered mourning) becomes immediately available
I’ve even cited the Standards in some of your countries related to boundaries of competence:
You need to find a mental health professional in your country who is willing to voice the need for professional competence… or you can wait for me to solve it in the U.S. and then invite me over to your country. But why wait for me? Start the ball rolling. Professional competence.